For a re­view of “Kings­man: The Golden Cir­cle,”

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“Kings­man: The Se­cret Ser­vice” caught many by sur­prise when it was re­leased in 2014. On the sur­face, it’s an up­dated, cheekier riff on Bond — the Bri­tish gen­tle­man spy gets an up­grade when a lower- class Cock­ney lad gets re­cruited into their ranks, uti­liz­ing his street smarts and brute force.

It was shock­ingly vi­o­lent, sound­tracked to clas­sic pop hits and the one- two punch of di­rec­tor Matthew Vaughn’s dizzy­ing cam­era work and star Taron Eger­ton’s crinkly- eyed charm­pumme led au­di­ences into think­ing it was all “fun.”

How­ever, the se­quel, “Kings­man: The Golden Cir­cle,” re­ally shows the seams on this fran­chise. In upping the ante we can see that this whole af­fair is just a truly cyn­i­cal, painfully ret­ro­grade pas­tiche of mean­ing­less pop nos­tal­gia wrapped around a non­sen­si­cal plot, sprin­kled with a dust­ing of re­pul­sive sex­ism. Fun.

In “Golden Cir­cle,” Kings­man agent Eg­gsy ( Eger­ton) seem­ingly has it all to­gether as a gen­tle­man spy, co­zied up with his Swedish princess girl­friend Tilde ( Hanna Al­strom), be­fore it all falls apart at the hands of a kooky en­tre­pre­neur vil­lain much like it did in the first film. This time, our dis­rup­tor of in­dus­try is Poppy Adams ( Ju­lianne Moore, stoop­ing far be­low her stan­dard), an in­trepid drug lord camped out in a retro neon ’ 50s par­adise deep in the Cam­bo­dian jun­gle. She de­cides to hold the world hostage by in­fect­ing drug users with amys­te­ri­ous virus in or­der to push through le­gal­iza­tion of all drugs.

Since the U. S. pres­i­dent ( Bruce Green­wood) de­cides to play chicken with Poppy, only the pri­vate se­cu­rity force of the Kings­men, with an as­sist from the Ken­tuck­y­based States­men, can bring Poppy’s evil plot down. Like the Kings­men, the State­men are to­tal stereo­types of their na­tion, with Agents Tequila ( Chan­ning Ta­tum, crim­i­nally un­der­used), Whiskey ( Pe­dro Pas­cal) and Cham­pagne ( Jeff Bridges) sport­ing dude- ranch fresh cow­boy duds and swing­ing las­sos.

“Kings­man” is based on the comic books by Mark Mil­lar and Dave Gib­bons, while Vaughn and Jane Gold­man wrote the screen­plays for both “Se­cret Ser­vice” and “Golden Cir­cle.” Yes, a fe­male writer can have a hand in script­ing a screen­play that de­hu­man­izes women, who are merely helpers and sex ob­jects here, sub­ject to hor­ri­ble degra­da­tion. Even Poppy, in her Step­ford wife fan­tasy, lets men do the dirty work. One par­tic­u­larly egre­gious se­quence takes the leer­ing, in­va­sive cam­era gaze to a whole new level, and just might feel like an ac­tual vi­o­la­tion for fe­male- bod­ied au­di­ence mem­bers. To add in­sult to the af­fair, Halle Berry’s char­ac­ter, Gin­ger Ale, makes a sup­port­ive quip af­ter­ward.

Claim­ing fun fan­tasy and es­capism doesn’t ex­cuse the ugly be­hav­ior of “Kings­man.” Words mat­ter. Images mat­ter. When you take a step back from all the bom­bast, Vaughn and Gold­man’s world­view as seen through the lens of “Kings­man” is so in­cred­i­bly bleak. Their opin­ion of Amer­i­cans is dis­mal: ei­ther aw- shucks cow­boys or ho­mo­pho­bic, hate­ful red­necks. The suave Brits are too cool to care about any death or car­nage they leave in their wake, and there­fore there are no mean­ing­ful stakes.

In this world, noth­ing mat­ters. This film is so flip­pant, it es­pouses a par­tic­u­larly po­tent strain of candy- col­ored ni­hilism, where ev­ery nos­tal­gic cul­tural sym­bol be­comes lethal. Is Vaughn mak­ing a point about death by nos­tal­gia? Nah, this movie isn’t smart enough. It’s just a gas- guz­zling com­bus­tion en­gine fu­eled by the shal­low­est of pop ref­er­ences, strung to­gether in an in­cred­i­bly stupid plot, pep­pered with ado­les­cent body hu­mor. It’s point­less pablum. Pass.

“Kings­man: The Golden Cir­cle,” a Twen­ti­eth Cen­tury Fox re­lease, is rated R for se­quences of strong vi­o­lence, drug con­tent, lan­guage through­out and some sex­ual ma­te­rial. Run­ning time: 141 min­utes.

“The LEGO Nin­jago Movie”

If you’re of a cer­tain age and child­less, it’s en­tirely pos­si­ble you haven’t the fog­gi­est idea what a “Nin­jago” — of the lat­est LEGO movie — might be. Ap­par­ently it is both a show and a toy, but that’s as far as I got into the Wikipedia ar­ti­cle. With the wild suc­cess of both “The LEGO Movie” and “The LEGO Bat­man Movie,” re­leased just ear­lier this year, it stands to rea­son that Warner Bros. would strike while the iron is hot and churn out more LEGO- themed movies, like “The LEGO Nin­jago Movie,” which sadly proves that when it comes to the su­per fun LEGO movies, there can be di­min­ish­ing re­turns.

The ge­nius of “The LEGO Movie” and “The LEGO Bat­man Movie” lies in the ex­tremely high joke den­sity of those films, which are thick with ver­bal and vis­ual gags, nearly over­whelm­ing in their de­tailed speci­ficity to both the LEGO char­ac­ter style, and the in­cred­i­bly rich worlds and mythol­ogy cre­ated around th­ese lit­tle plas­tic toys. “Nin­jago,” directed by Char­lie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Lo­gan, and cred­ited to no less than nine screen­writ­ers ( in­clud­ing Fisher and Lo­gan) doesn’t quite main­tain that level of ma­nia that make both “Movie” and “Bat­man” deliriously fun.

Sig­naled by the vin­tage WB logo at the be­gin­ning, and a live- ac­tion opening fea­tur­ing Jackie Chan as a kindly shop owner telling the story of Lloyd and Nin­jago to a young pa­tron, “The LEGO Nin­jago Movie” is in­spired by 1970s kung fu and mon­ster movies. The young hero, Lloyd ( Dave Franco), is a for­lorn teenager in the sea­side city of Nin­jago, lead­ing a se­cret dou­ble life as both the much ma­ligned son of evil vil­lain Gar­madon ( Justin Th­er­oux) and the Green Ninja of the ninja crew that saves the city from Gar­madon’s de­struc­tion. Think of the ninja crew like the Power Rangers: th­ese teens have dif­fer­ent col­ors, dif­fer­ent pow­ers, and ride around in gi­ant an­i­mal- shaped ro­bots fight­ing Gar­madon and his army.

Lloyd’s just a sen­si­tive kid with daddy is­sues, and there­fore, he over­com­pen­sates a bit. Dur­ing a bat­tle, he ac­ci­den­tally un­leashes a ter­ri­fy­ing mon­ster— a furry fe­line crea­ture named Meow- thra ( a live house­cat, bat­ting Nin­jago around like a ball of yarn). With his posse of ninja bud­dies, un­der the guid­ance of their sen­sei, Mr. Liu ( Chan), Lloyd sets out on an ad­ven­ture to re­trieve a su­per special weapon to stop Me­owthra. There’s just one wrin­kle — his over­bear­ing blowhard of an evil dad joins them on the trip.

“LEGO Nin­jago” main­tains the silly and ir­rev­er­ent tone of the prior films, and the other nin­jas are voiced with great per­son­al­ity by comic stars Ku­mail Nan­jiani, Abbi Ja­cob­son, Zach Woods, Fred Ar­misen, and Michael Peña.

What doesn’t quite work is the emo­tional story be­tween Lloyd and Gar­madon as they get to know and ac­cept each other, which is the heart of this tale. If the story of your film re­quires a lot of emo­tional ex­pres­sion, it might not work best with char­ac­ters that have flat round plas­tic heads and painted on fea­tures.

Some as­pects of the film are quite en­ter­tain­ing. Gar­madon is a great char­ac­ter, es­pe­cially as voiced by Th­er­oux ( his pro­nun­ci­a­tion of Lloyd as “Luh- Loyd” doesn’t get old). It’s a light, ser­vice­able romp around the LE­GOs, but doesn’t come close to the high- key an­tics of the first two films in the se­ries.

“The LEGO Nin­jago Movie,” a Warn­erBros. re­lease, is rated PG for some mild ac­tion and rude hu­mor. Run­ning time: 101 min­utes.

½

TRI­BUNE NEWS SER­VICE

Jackie Chan lends his voice to Master Wu in the new Warner Bros. re­lease “The LEGO Nin­jago Movie.”

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